Minutewomen bounce back, throttle George Washington

  • Sam Breen, shown here last year in the WNIT, and the UMass women’s basketball team got back in the win column Saturday thanks to a dominant road victory over George Washington. COURTESY JAY CRAIN

Staff Writer
Published: 1/22/2022 8:10:13 PM
Modified: 1/22/2022 8:08:56 PM

After two difficult losses to top Atlantic 10 opponents Dayton and Rhode Island, the UMass women’s basketball team needed a ‘W’ in a major way.

The Minutewomen showed up with a purpose on Saturday afternoon and achieved that, dominating all 40 minutes of play against George Washington and rolling to a 68-41 win in Washington, D.C., to snap a two-game skid. 

“I thought we did a great job of defending them. When you look at the stats and the fact that we held them to four points in the second period, just goes to show you… the defensive execution,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “We did a great job of scrambling, we did a great job of getting through back screens and holding them. I thought that was the difference in the game.”

The entire roster showed up in the win for UMass (15-4, 3-2), a promising sign after its last two contests. Sam Breen picked up her 12th double-double of the season in convincing fashion, leading the team with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while sharp-shooter Sydney Taylor knocked down 17 points and grabbed five boards. Their depth was also on display, with four different players – Ber’Nyah Mayo, Destiney Philoxy, Angelique Ngalakulondi, and Stefanie Kulesza – picking up at least five points apiece. 

UMass finally got a day off to breathe a little in between games, something Verdi said helped heading into Saturday's contest, but their travel to D.C. was far from smooth. 

“We tried to get in and have a shoot around (Friday night) but unfortunately, our bus didn’t pick us up in time, so we missed our shoot around [Friday] night and then we tried to get to the hotel, and the hotel we check into, the the main water valve was broken because of the cold. So we had a check out of that hotel (and) go to another hotel,” Verdi said with a grin. “It's been kind of (crazy) here in the last 24 hours."  

Despite the chaos, the Minutewomen stayed level-headed on the court once the game clock started. The biggest difference for the visitors was their defensive play. UMass went into the second quarter on an 11-0 run that started in the final minutes of the first frame, and the club outscored the Colonials 24-4 in the second period alone. Much of that came from turnovers from the home team; GW gave the ball away 12 times in the first half, and 17 of UMass’ first half points came from buckets off of turnovers. 

Of course, GW is no Rhode Island or Dayton – going into Saturday’s matchup, the Colonials were 7-9 on the season, and 0-3 in A-10 play. Regardless, it was tremendously important for UMass to get the win, and the significant margin was icing on the cake. 

“This team and the last two teams are different because of their size and their physicality. But I thought that, we did a really good job of maintaining defensively in executing our defensive game plan throughout the course of the game,” Verdi said. “I thought that whether it was late in the second period, late in the third period or fourth period, we still want to execute.” 

UMass kept its foot on the gas in the second half, not allowing GW any time or space to even think about closing the gap. The Colonials struggled on offense, in part because of the Minutewomen's stifling defense. The home team shot just 26.2 percent from the field (compared to UMass’ 45.3 percent) and sank just five triples on 29 attempts; four of those 3-pointers came in the second half after they went 1-for-11 in the first. 

But regardless of what GW was doing, the Minutewomen stuck to their game plan. Verdi stressed to the team the importance of going to the interior on offense, and UMass picked up 32 points in the paint. After struggling on the boards their last two contests, the visitors out-rebounded GW 43-36 and – perhaps most impressively – shot 76.5 percent from the free throw line. 

All in all, the confidence boost was exactly what the team needed heading back home to face Rhode Island on Wednesday in a rematch that Verdi called ‘a revenge game.’ The Minutewomen lost to the Rams on the road just last week.

“It's a revenge game for us, number one, with huge implications to an A-10 championship,” Verdi said. “I know that we've lost two and this is our opportunity to knock them off and give them a loss in the standings.”

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